How Much Would You Spend For a Good Night’s Sleep?

According to MSN Money "Sales of prescription sleep aids are expected to almost double to $4.3 billion in 2010 from $2.4 billion last year ... For the estimated 70 million people with sleep problems." And perhaps even more surprising -- if you sleep well -- The National Sleep Foundation, in a 2005 poll, found that "only 49% of the 1,506 Americans surveyed said they got a good night's sleep most nights." These stats may help to explain why the over-the-top luxury bed market is flourishing.

It's also important to realize when reading these numbers that the extrapolated 51% of Americans who claim to not sleep well, perceive that they don't. A few years back at a cocktail party, I had a fascinating discussion with an MD who was studying sleep disorders. She claimed that in her clinical studies when subjects were roused from REM sleep (rapid eye movement) just once over a 7 hour period, they reported not sleeping well the following morning. My point here is that perception not only matters, it's everything when it comes to selling beds. Not any new mattress and box spring, mind you, but beds costing between $20 and $60 grand.

This morning's WSJ claims "There's an arms race under way in the world of luxury mattresses that jittery economists and sluggish home sales seem unable to stop. Even at the middle-to-upper-middle tiers, mattress prices are creeping up as companies cater to mainstream demand for luxurious sleep." Earl Kluft, chief executive of E.S. Kluft, a family-owned matress company based in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. is quoted saying "super-premium mattresses, or those costing $20,000 or more, made up 5% of Kluft's sales of $33 million in 2009, a year when overall sales were flat. In 2010, first-quarter sales were up 50% over the year earlier." The Journal also reports that "Bloomingdale's, a unit of Macy's Inc., currently offers Mr. Kluft's Palais Royale ...the most expensive American-made mattress set on the market at $33,000 .... in several stores ... [while] Just a few years ago, the company's mattress assortment topped out in the $5,000-to-$6,000 range.

Now if your thinking that this phenomenon is peculiarly American, "European shoppers will pay even more. At $69,500 -- roughly the price of a Porsche Cayenne S hybrid SUV -- there's the Vividus king-size mattress set from Hästens Sängar AB, of Sweden ... [which] takes 160 hours to assemble ... entirely by hand ...[with] a Swedish-pine frame with thick layers of horsehair, cotton, flax and wool inside." Excuse the digression, but I have to do the arithmetic on this: Let's say the craftspeople are paid $50/hour. Times 160 hours that's $8,000. And generously assigning $4,000 for material with an overhead factor of 50%, total cost of production might reach $20K.

And my fiancé accused me of being a spendthrift when I recently spent 80 bucks on a foam mattress pad (of course that was the sale price).

William Busch

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